MOSCOW, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Russia will start full-scale production of the upgraded supersonic strategic bomber Tupolev Tu-160M2 in 2020, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported Tuesday.
According to the contract with the United Aircraft Corporation, the production of Tu-160M2 has already been launched, and the new model is expected to make its debut flight in 2018 and to realize its serial production in 2020, with two or three aircraft being produced each year, the Russian defense industry was quoted as saying.
The new bomber, equipped with completely new mission systems, can be powered by an upgraded version of the existing Kuznetsov NK-32 afterburning turbofan, it said.
Along with the production of the Tu-160M2, operational long-range combat aircraft, such as the Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, will also be modernized, said the agency.
The Tu-160, or White Swan, is a Soviet supersonic strategic bomber which can be equipped with nuclear warheads, while the Tu-95, a four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform, has been included in Russian strategic nuclear forces along with ground missile systems and submarines.
The idea to restart the production of Tu-160 airplanes in a modernized version was put forward by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in April 2015. A month later, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave instructions to resume the production of the aircraft.